I’m an American. I spent some time driving in both the UK and Ireland this summer and after a while (yeah, I’m not much of an observer) made the discovery that essentially no cars have bumper stickers, or at least they didn’t on the roads I was on.
Coming from the US, where sometimes it seems that everybody has at least two (“My Honor Student Ate Your Dog,” “Follow Me to My Intolerant Church,” etc.), I found this…intriguing.
Is the lack of bumper stickerage just a cultural thing? Is it impossible to sell a car if it’s been stickerized? Are there laws against it? An embargo on bumper stickers coming into the region?
Thanks for any insights. I’d appreciate it–I suspect we all would, as this is GQ–if we could leave any snide comments about bumper stickers, either pro or con, out of the thread…and the same with comments about the US vs. the UK/Ireland. I know, it’ll make the thread less interesting–but let’s, um, stick to the facts, thanks.
Of course, it is the American love for these things that requires explanation, rather than Britain’s lack of interest, though they are far from universal, even in the USA. I am going to guess that somebody once started marketing the things in America, and they caught on.
Bumper stickers really went mainstream with presidential campaign stickers. My pet theory is that all of US bumper sticker culture owes its existence to the presidential campaigns putting the idea of proselytizing with the back of your car into the heads of American drivers. There’s nothing really comparable in a parliamentary system, so that idea never got in the heads of British drivers. In Canada, partisan political bumper stickers are rare, but the US and Canadian car cultures are close enough that they got all the other types of stickers.
Our sense of individuality?
Here in the USA we/I can often feel very strongly about our particualr view or thoughts on a subject. What better place to express that than the bumper of your car.
Stop and think about it, other than posting it on the web or purchasing advertising time on a ‘billboard’, how else are you going to proclaim your position/thoughts/opinion to the maximum # of viewers.
During the 70’s the fad for all things American brought the UK MacDonalds, Starsky and Hutch and bumper stickers. They were very popular, with some real gems, and lots of garbage, however the fad waned over time and it is now considered ‘old fashioned’ to have them. In fact ‘unsophisticated’ as people have risen above such things and now have colored windshield jet lights, car tattoos and black wheels. It’s only hippies and old people who have bumper stickers!
Don’t bumper stickers mess up your paintwork? No one us going to deliberately tarnish their bumper - cars are valuable!
You see the odd sticker in the back window, but usually pretty tame - ‘I’m a member if the National Trust’ or my pet loathing ‘baby on board’ (Wow, glad you told me, I was thinking about ramming you’). Maybe the odd football team badge. National flags if you’re Welsh, Scottish or Cornish. English flag if you’re a meathead.
I think the National Trust one isn’t just showing off or advertising, it’s because you can… I dunno… drive up to National Trust properties and get free parking or something? My Granny has it on her car, and I doubt she sticks it on her windshield (front!) to pimp her ride!
+1 They’re pretty much unheard of all over Europe. You sometimes see window decals/stickers (which should be removable), sometimes a souvenir or country of origin sticker on the back of the car (usually in a car its owner doesn’t ever expect to sell). And sometimes a truck whose windshield is blooming with the things, along with souvenir flags and whatnot, but always carefully positioned in a way that won’t block the view.
And gracer, if your granny has paint on her windshield she’s got a problem the next time a cop sees her No paint to mess up there, plus those stickers should be removable (the ones that go on paint tend to mess it up if you ever try to remove them, as** SanVito** said).
In theory, those were meant to be helpful to the emergency services in case of an accident (but in practice, they’re useless, because people don’t take them out of the window when the baby is not on board)
I have noticed in the US that a lot of the bumper stickers are political in nature. I think it ties in to politics being more polarised there. In the UK, while people still strongly disagree with each other over political issues, it is less polarised and it is not really the done thing to be “in your face” about it. This is a culture that values irreverence and understatement. Earnestness is made fun of.